How You Can Shape Tomorrow


One of the sales rallies I wrote for IBM many years ago had as its theme “The Power of One.”

At the time, I had no idea what that meant. So I wrote the usual corporate fluff.

But now I understand the power of one. It comes down to this  . . .

. . . you have it within you to shape the future of all of us.

I’ve just finished writing a novella set in 1957. It's titled Billy of the Tulips. Fifteen-year-old Billy is homeless, because his father has turned him out of the house. The story is told in a series of letters Billy writes to his kid sister at home. (The book will be published by TouchPoint Press.) 

In writing it, I was reminded of the unbounded optimism we felt in 1957. Back then, when I was Billy's age, America’s ambitions and opportunities seemed limitless.

Billy writes this in one of his letters: 

He talked about what a special time we are living in and about the wonders that are unfolding. Last month the Russians shot Sputnik into orbit. Maybe you and I will live in the Space Age! A couple of weeks ago, a scientist invented what he calls the laser. It lets us use light as a tool for all sorts of things. In another week or two, they are going to fly a passenger jet plane for the first time. They are already referring to this as the beginning of the Jet Age. And another scientist came out with a theory that there are not just three dimensions, but lots more—other worlds that are like mirrors of the one we live in.

What unbridled hope!

Which never panned out.

We went to the moon and stopped there. Today’s laser technology is most evidenced at the supermarket checkout counter. Jet travel has become nightmarish.

Despite the Cold War’s threat of nuclear annihilation, what has kept us duck-and-cover kids going is our continuing belief in tomorrow.

Here’s where “the power of one” comes in: tomorrow is often defined by one person.  

One person can make a difference for millions:

  • For every Hitler, there’s a Maximilian Kolbe
  • For every Stalin there’s a Mother Teresa
  • For every Pol Pot, there’s a Nelson Mandela

There is no reason why that one person can’t be you.

Author Mike Schmitz talks about the idea that each of our lives has far-reaching meaning. Every decision we make, he writes in Beautiful Hope, leaves the world more hopeful—or more hopeless.

How do we shape tomorrow for the better? 

For me? Stop focusing on myself—and focus on somebody else:

  • How can I help somebody who's down?
  • How can I help somebody who's lonely?
  • How can I help somebody who’s hungry, or bullied, or abandoned, or homeless?

Here’s Billy again:

How lucky for you and me to be young and be able to enter such an exciting future, with so much to look forward to. When I was reading the Bible today, I found this from St. Paul, which is the best news of all: “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but of power and love and self-control.” The Professor reminded me that the decisions I make now, when I am young and full of potential, will set the direction not only of my whole life, but also the lives other people—people I don’t even know and people who don’t even exist yet, like the children I might have some day.

Billy is fifteen with his life ahead. But you and I? We’re never too old to shape someone’s tomorrow: “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but of power and love and self-control.”

That’s the power of one.

Read my newest book, Saints and Sinners, Maybe: One Hundred Wanderings

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